Monthly Archives: March 2011

Cappellini with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil

This recipe for Cappellini with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil is such a simple, but delicious dish – I love the fresh flavors of the mozzarella, olive oil, tomatoes, and basil.  The key to making this dish taste exceptional is using the best fresh ingredients you have on hand.  I love fresh mozzarella b/c I love the texture and the taste.  Adding the mozzarella on top of the hot pasta slightly melts the cheese, but not all the way, so you still have the wonderful cubes of cheese.  I love cubes of cheese.  I could polish off an entire cheese tray with no problem. 🙂  The addition of the fresh basil leaves also makes the dish taste fresh and adds some nice color.  This dish is perfect on a weeknight after a busy day since it has very few ingredients and a short prep time.  Buon Appetito!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole wheat cappellini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and saute until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Add the cheese and basil, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

*Adapted from Everyday Italian


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Filed under Main Course, Pasta

Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.  They even encouraged us to put our own national spin on this cake.  Since I’m American, I decided to add apples and cinnamon to my filling, but since I’m also a little Italian and my hubby is a lot Italian, I decided to add chopped hazelnuts and honey.  This yeasted coffee cake came out delicious and moist.  The apples, cinnamon, hazelnuts, and honey filling was so delicious and represented a wonderful marriage of two nationalities.  While this coffee cake might be slightly time consuming, it’s definitely worth it!  Hope you enjoy!





*Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter, but the recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake

Ingredients
For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 package active dried yeast
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar

For the filling:

2 apples, peeled and cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                                                                                                                                       1 cup chopped hazelnut                                                                                                                                                                                     Honey for drizzling

Egg wash:

1 beaten egg
confectioner’s sugar for dusting cakes

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.
Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:

In a small bowl, combine the apples, cinnamon, and sugar for the filling.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon, sugar, and apples followed by half the chopped nuts.  Finally, drizzle some honey on top.

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Peanut Butter Pretzel Rice Krispy Treats

I hadn’t had a rice Krispy treat in a long time and then I gradually began seeing them all over my fellow food bloggers’ sites.  They’re so delicious and so simple to make, so I decided I had to get involved in all the fun.  I decided to make peanut butter pretzel rice Krispy treats.  Peanut butter and pretzels are an amazing combo – they even sell these little beauties at the store.  Trader Joe’s has some awesome ones that once you bite into the pretzel, you’re instantly greeted by smooth, creamy peanut butter.  I decided that I’d add some peanut butter chips and crushed pretzels to my treats.  These babies were so simple to make and so delicious.  Once you bite down, you instantly taste the peanut butter chips along with some salty pretzel bites… yum!  Definitely give these treats a try.  They’re so simple and there are endless ways to add your own touch to them.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 bag (10 oz) marshmallows
  • 5 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels

Directions:

  1. Coat a 13 x 9 baking pan with spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine peanut butter chips, pretzels, and rice krispies.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
  4. Add the marshmallows and cook over low heat stirring constantly until melted.
  5. Remove from the heat and pour over cereal.
  6. Stir with a wooden spoon until coated and press into pan.
  7. Once cereal treats have cooled, cut into 24 squares and serve.

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Filed under Desserts

Spaghetti All’Amatriciana

My mom and dad got my hubby and I the pasta maker attachment for our Kitchen Aid this past Christmas.  I’ve been meaning to make fresh, homemade pasta for weeks (ok, maybe for 3 months), but just have not found the time to make it.  Each Sunday my family (me, hubby, sister, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law) take turns hosting Sunday dinner.  Since this week was my turn, I decided I was finally going to make fresh pasta.  To my surprise, making fresh pasta does not take long at all!  I made 2 pounds of spaghetti with a batch of white flour dough and a batch of whole-wheat dough.

Since I had to make a wonderful sauce to go with my fresh spaghetti, I decided to make a Roman sauce called Amatriciana (ugh-ma-tree-chon-ugh).  Amatriciana originated from a small town outside of Rome (Amatrice), but if you’ve ever been to Rome or hopefully ever go to Rome, you’ll see this sauce all over the city.  It’s usually served with spaghetti or bucatini and it’s amazing – what makes this sauce so wonderful is the pancetta.  If you can’t find pancetta, you can definitely use bacon too.  I like to add one finely diced carrot to my sauces.  Carrots add sweetness, and they also add a nice crunch that my hubby always notices and loves.  I made the sauce first and had it simmering on low while I was making my pasta.  Since your dough has to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, use this time to start boiling your water (unless you have one of those amazing stoves that boils water in less than 2 minutes… jealous!).  Fresh pasta cooks in a very short amount of time; you’ll see it’s finished when it begins to float on the top.  Drain and immediately serve the sauce on top.  I served my pasta in a beautiful hand-made Italian bowl from my mother-in-law (check out the first photo).  Enjoy Spaghetti All’Amatriciana!

Have you ever made fresh pasta?  What is your favorite kind of sauce to make?

Fresh Spaghetti:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Break the eggs into a glass measuring cup and add the water. Check to see that the total liquid is 3/4 cup.  If it isn’t, add teaspoons of water until that amount is reached.
  2. Place flour in bowl of Kitchen Aid and attach flat beater.  Turn to low speed and gradually add the egg mix and water and beat for 30 seconds.
  3. Stop the mixture and add the dough hook.  Turn on low speed and knead for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove dough from the bowl and knead by hand for 1 minute.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before extruding through pasta maker.

*Yield: 1 pound

Amatriciana Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled & finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 24 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine (I used Sangiovese)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, for sprinkling
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
  • 1 pound fresh spaghetti

Directions:

  1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove the pancetta, allow to drain on paper towels, and set aside.
  2. Add the onions and carrot and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the tomatoes, wine, oregano, sea salt, pepper, and pancetta.  Bring to a boil and cover and simmer on low for about 15 minutes more or until sauce thickens.
  4. Meanwhile, boil water in a large stock pot.  Add fresh spaghetti and cook until spaghetti floats to the top.
  5. Serve sauce over pasta and sprinkle with cheese and season with salt and pepper.


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Filed under Main Course, Pasta

Sausage & Tortellini Soup

I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  My weekend was great, but always seems too short. 🙂  In my previous post, I talked about trying a yoga class.  Well I tried a beginner/intermediate yoga class at my gym and it was great!  I will definitely be going to a yoga class once a week now.  I felt great after and can definitely see why so many people love yoga.  Because I was feeling so great, I decided to buy some fresh whole wheat tortellini and make Sausage & Tortellini Soup.  I love this soup because it’s not heavy and since spring is here (and since I was feeling so great from yoga), I thought it was all too appropriate for the beautiful weather we’ve been having.  I love the flavors in this soup especially the addition of the fresh lemon juice – it reinforces that spring is finally here and also makes the soup taste great!  Hope you had a great weekend – what do you like to do to relax and/or feel better?

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 9 oz tortellini, fresh or frozen
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausages and break up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until brown.
  2. Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft, 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. Add the beans, tomatoes, and oregano and stir to combine.  Add the chicken stock, wine, and lemon juice and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the tortellini to the pot and cook according to the package directions, about 5 minutes.  One minute before the tortellini is fully cooked, stir in the spinach.
  6. Remove from the heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm with grated Parmesan as desired.

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Filed under Pasta, Soup & Salad

Yoga & Southwestern Egg Wrap


Since I’ve been waking up at 6am for my new job and getting home around 5:30 every night, I’m usually quite exhausted after the long day.  My mom always asks me how I find the time or have the energy to go to the gym after work.  The one thing that I always tell myself to get my butt to the gym is that no matter how tired I am right now, after my workout I will feel like a million bucks.  And it always works because I always feel amazing and energized after getting a great workout in.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m in a volleyball league on Monday nights.  Recently, I’ve been noticing that I’m overextending my shoulder when I go to hit the ball.  It leaves my shoulder very sore and tender afterwards.  Combining that with zumba, kickboxing, and the occasional cardio workout (treadmill/elliptical), my muscles are generally very tight.

Then ironically, about a week ago, my hubby mentioned that he wants to start doing yoga.  This is crazy, but I’ve never gone to a yoga class before.  I have a yoga DVD that I’ve done before at home, but never at a class, and I’m not really sure why.  I know there are different types of yoga and they all give you different results.  What I’m looking for is yoga that will stretch out my muscles and make me feel relaxed and refreshed.  My hubby is looking for a yoga class that will relax him and let him clear his mind.  I definitely don’t think bikram is for us; I get motion sickness on the metro sometimes, so I would probably not fare well in 100 degree heat.  My hubby complains that the DC metro area doesn’t get enough snow (he’s a snow bunny), so I don’t think he’d fare well in the heat either.  Do you have any suggestions for what type of yoga we should try?

There’s a yoga class at the gym, so I think this Saturday we’re going to check it out.  I have no idea what type of yoga it is because the schedule just says Yoga (beginner and intermediate).  I’m kind of nervous about being out of my element.  We’re not the most coordinated duo, and I know our family members would pay big bucks to watch us in action while we do chatarungas and downward doggies.  With that aside however, I’m always up for pushing myself and trying a new workout, so I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out!

While eggs don’t have anything to do with yoga, I wanted to share with you a great breakfast-for-dinner option – southwestern egg wrap.  These wraps are so easy to make and such a wonderful alternative to nights when you don’t feel like doing anything or when someone feels like going for a walk.

The 10 minutes that it takes to throw this wrap together are well worth it.  This baby is packed with proteins and delicious veggies.  Hope you enjoy and looking forward to your yoga suggestions!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs (I used 2 egg whites and 2 yolks)
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh salsa
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 whole wheat tortillas

Directions:

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs and milk with a fork and set aside.
  2. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  Add jalapeno and onion to skillet and saute until soft, 5 minutes.
  3. Add a pinch of sea salt to the egg mixture and pour into the pan over the jalapeno and onion stirring slowly with a spatula. Once eggs begin to harden, use the spatula to fold the eggs over themselves.
  4. Add the Monterey jack cheese and cook until melts.  Once there isn’t any more liquid in the pan, remove egg mix from the heat spread along the middle of the tortilla in a vertical line.
  5. Top with avocado slices and fresh salsa.  Sprinkle with cilantro and fresh ground pepper.
  6. Fold the bottom part of the tortilla in and while holding that edge folded in, begin to roll tortilla (like a burrito).
  7. Enjoy while hot!

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Filed under Breakfast

Mint Oreo Cookie Cheesecake Cups

Today in the office is “Green Bag Lunch Day” which means everyone is bringing in their bagged lunch along with something green to share.  I decided to make these individual mint Oreo cookie cheesecake cups.  About a week ago, I saw the mint Oreo cookies at the grocery store and without hesitation, put a package in my cart.  When I bought these Oreos I had no idea how I was going to use them.
At first, I was inspired by Annie’s Eats Cookies and Cream Cupcakes to make an Oreo cookie cupcake and place one cookie at the bottom of each cupcake liner.  I would make chocolate cupcakes with some mint extract, mint buttercream, and crushed Oreos on top.  Now this is an awesome cupcake idea for a St. Patty’s Day, but since I ride the Metro to work everyday, cupcakes, especially ones with copious amounts of frosting plopped on top, are not conducive to carrying into the office.  Then, I saw Gingerbread Bagel’s Peanut Butter Oreo Cookie Cheesecakes and decided this would be the perfect alternative to my cupcakes.  Since I already had ricotta in my refrigerator, and ricotta cheesecake is simply amazing, I decided I would do individual mint Oreo cookie cheesecake cups.  These treats are perfect for transporting to the office without fear of smearing or making a mess.  I also love the fact that they are individual cheesecakes, so my coworkers don’t need to mess around cutting up the cheesecake and serving – they can just grab one and go!

Filling:
  • 2, 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 10-12 drops of green food coloring
  • 1 package Mint Oreo Cookies, 20 whole cookies, plus 10 crushed cookies
  • Cool Whip for spreading over cheesecake cups

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat until combined.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat for about 30 seconds.  Add the mint extract and ricotta and beat until combined.
  4. Fold in about 3/4 of the crushed cookies until combined.  Set the other 1/4 aside for sprinkling on top.
  5. Add the green food coloring and mix until even.
  6. Line 20 muffin tins with a muffin liner and place one, whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each cup.  Pour batter evenly over the cups.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until firm, but still a little wobbly in center.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate a few hours until firm.
  8. Place dollops of Cool Whip over each cup and sprinkle with crushed Oreos.  Refrigerate overnight until firm.

*Adapted from Joy of Baking

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